Tigers & Ligers & no bears at all

On Sunday, I took a quick jaunt out to the Siberian tiger park with 9 other CET students. It was raining heavily but we bought tickets (with our student ids, only 45 yuan!) to take a ride in an “armored” bus around the park. We drove on narrow dirt roads, brushing past rain-soaked foliage, and squeezing past other buses. The first tiger we saw was white, sunning itself upon a rock by the gate entrance. More padded past us, their heads giant. We passed huge rain-filled ditches, drove through gated areas between sections of the park. At one point, two tigers got into the gated area we had just left behind so we reversed direction and chased them back into their section of the park with the sound of the horn. I wonder what they thought they would find. Another time, another bus approached the gated area with several tigers chasing it. Our bus stood directly in front of the gate and beeped at the tigers as the other bus came straight at us. Their methods of keeping the tigers in their own areas is…interesting. No backup, just our bus and its momentum.

P1040210 One guy in the program had paid for a live chicken to be fed to the tigers. We stopped near a small armored truck, a man quickly opened the door of the truck and flung out the chicken. I barely saw anything before two tigers flashed by and took the chicken away. From a distance, we later saw a tiger snatch a duck from the air and bring it down into one of the muddy ditches. Later, in the area that was more of a zoo, you could buy meat or live poultry and dangle it over the tigers. A tiger leapt to get at a chicken then ran off, several tigers chasing behind. Besides tigers, there was also a liger, leopard, and cheetah but they mostly stayed in their pens. The rain was pouring down by then, although our walkway was covered.P1040225I think I’ve adjusted to the workload for the most part. I also think the homework load has eased a bit since the first two weeks. Only one memorization and one test today?! That seems ludicrously little! This was the first weekend where I felt as if I could get slightly ahead (as in a day ahead) of the homework so I’ve started preparing for Tuesday where I have 3 classes which means: 2 text memorizations, a 500 character essay, writing quiz, reading a new text, preparing a dialogue, and an oral presentation.

Tonight will be the second gongfu class. It’s interesting because the regular CET summer students are leaving in about a week so this gongfu class only has 3 people: Nathan, Bryan & I. I think it will mostly be learning forms but it’s strange being in such an informal class. The instructor demonstrates once then we all practice with minimal attention to form, very different from Brown’s tae kwon do club. My problem is that the first way you learn something shapes your expectations. I’m used to more rigorous and competitive instruction (in fencing and tae kwon do) so a more informal class makes me feel as if I’m not learning as much because it’s not about perfecting technique to win/compete. The stances themselves are similar to tkd but the strikes are different (and I have to learn how to say them in Mandarin!) and the footwork is mildly different. But as we learned in the last class, there are many many different types of gongfu since the word “gongfu” is a pretty general term for martial arts. I’m not sure exactly what kind we’re learning…

***

Random things:

-Folk tales: Dragons=water&rain, folktales tied to local customs, to the names of places, to the poor. Heilongjiang= Black Dragon River. The north-noodles & bread, the south-rice. In northern tales, sleep on kangs instead of beds, do double duty in the wintertime to keep in warmth. Those sky maidens! The heavenly life isn’t very interesting to them.

-Old Harbin: P1040168-copy

-On the banks of 松花江 (Songhua River) P1040174-copy
Speaking of last weekend’s weekend activity to Old Harbin, that’s also where you can buy pets on the street. Tons of TINY puppies, kittens, turtles, fish, rabbits, and hamsters. Also, crickets in tiny cages. P1040183
-This weekend also involved going to a giant building where you could buy cloth/buttons/ribbons/etc for custom-made clothing, blankets, pillows. A short qipao made with Hangzhou silk would’ve cost about 280 yuan which is probably around $45 so not expensive at all. Definitely thinking about getting a dress made! (Although probably neither a qipao nor made with Hangzhou silk.)

This post was ridiculously long, sorry! Will try to do more frequent shorter posts now that I’m using a different connection.

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